TORONTO — The family of billionaire philanthropists Barry and Honey Sherman offered up to $10 million Friday for information that would solve the couple's killings, a reward announced after their lawyer detailed what he described as major shortcomings in a Toronto police probe into the deaths.
Brian Greenspan outlined a litany of alleged errors and lapses in the police investigation of what detectives have described as a targeted double homicide.
He said those problems first surfaced when the Shermans' bodies were discovered last December in their Toronto mansion and persist to this day.
"Police are required, by law, to maintain a certain professional standard in their approach to investigations," Greenspan said at a press conference he described as an effort to "light the fire" under the force. "But in this case, at this stage of the investigation, the manner in which the Toronto Police Service conducted itself fell well below that standard."
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders was quick to defend his officers' work, saying Greenspan did not have all the information detectives have uncovered to date.
"If you have an opinion on it, you're entitled to that opinion," Saunders said of Greenspan's criticism. "We don't deal with opinions, we deal with facts."
The police chief added, however, that while rewards are not always effective, he supported the offer of one in this case.
"Mr. Greenspan has the same objective as we do, to solve this double homicide," Saunders said at a news conference held shortly after Greenspan's announcement.
Greenspan said he was hired 24 hours after Barry and Honey Shermans' bodies were found by the side of their basement pool.
He claimed police first erred by indicating they were not searching for any suspects — statements Greenspan said amounted to police suggesting the founder of pharmaceutical giant Apotex and his wife died as a result of either suicide or murder-suicide.
He said that sent the wrong message and set the tone for an inadequate investigation.
Saunders countered that those police statements were a deliberate effort to reassure community members that they were not in imminent danger, saying the affluent neighbourhood where the Shermans lived had experienced a rash of break-ins in the months prior to their deaths.
"That community was incredibly alarmed," the police chief said. "Their concern was, 'are we going to be able to sleep tonight? Was this a break-and-enter gone wrong?'"
Greenspan claimed police did not vacuum the Shermans' house in a quest to gather evidence, failed to properly check points of entry into the mansion, and did not collect sufficient fingerprint and DNA evidence. He maintained some of those tasks have still not been completed.
"This entire process has caused needless additional pain and suffering to the Sherman family," he said. "Regrettably, it has become clear to them that...police resources have neither been properly managed nor effectively utilized."
The family is not, however, considering civil action against the force, he said.
The lawyer headed up a team of private investigators hired by the family, including several former Toronto homicide detectives, Ontario's former chief pathologist, and forensic experts.
He said the team has recovered evidence, including 25 finger and palm prints, that they have shared with police as part of their proposal to pursue a joint private-public investigation.
Greenspan said the family has offered its multimillion-dollar reward to help bring the case to a conclusion.
"We're trying to light the fire. That's part of the reason we've gathered today — to provide the new incentive for members of the public to come forward," he said.
"But also to light the fire under the Toronto Police Service and try to ensure that those investigative steps which either have not yet been completed and ought to have been taken by this time are completed."
A panel will determine the value of any information submitted through a dedicated tip line set up by the family and the reward will be doled out on a "sliding scale," the lawyer said.
Police have not provided any major updates on their own investigation since January, and Greenspan did not disclose any details of what his team has uncovered.
Investigators previously said the Shermans, who were in their 70s, were found in a semi-seated position by the house pool, hanging from a railing with belts around their necks. Autopsy results revealed the pair died by "ligature neck compression," they said. Police also said there were no signs of forced entry to the home.
Barry Sherman founded Apotex in 1974 and built it into a generic drug giant with more than $2 billion in annual revenue. He stepped down as CEO five years ago and was no longer involved in the company's daily operations.
Honey Sherman was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai's Women's Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.